Without fail, every time I get together with my girlfriends, I whine and complain that we don’t get to spend time with each other nearly as often as I would like. And, without fail, one of them always says, “Moms are the worst at taking care of themselves!” Though she says it jokingly, I find myself pushing back against this sentiment. I mean, it’s not as if we consciously decide our needs and desires don’t matter! It’s just that our little people have so many needs that our own needs get pushed to the end of our never-ending to-do list.
When my son was born almost four years ago, I was drowning in lonely motherhood, with a baby I adored but one who would not sleep, no matter how much I rocked, swaddled, sang to, and nursed him. This forced me to ask myself the hard questions:
Is this all that I am now? Is motherhood supposed to be this hard? Was I meant to even be a mom?
Slowly but surely, I started answering these questions and I am so glad to be on this journey to self-love and wholeness now. It is one I hope all mothers take, and what better time to start than on this Valentine’s Day?
Make Time for Yourself
In the same way you schedule doctor’s visits and sporting events, make time for yourself. When I say “make,” I mean schedule, mark your calendar, consult with your partner, do whatever you need to do to make sure it gets done. Plan consistently and intentionally the uninterrupted times you will have for yourself. For me, this looks like getting our planners out at the beginning of every month and penciling in days where I will get at least a few consecutive hours to myself.
Making a habit of doing this makes it unlikely to forget about it. Also, I encourage you, mama: Resist the urge to use this time for running errands, because while it might feel good to cross things off checklists in the moment, nothing beats the satisfaction of beginning to rediscover yourself.
Remember Your Other Loves
Now that you have this time for yourself, what do you do with it? For me, this was as simple as answering this question: “What did I enjoy doing before becoming a mother?” Hear me out, mama. Nothing will ever take away from how much you love your partner and children. Therefore, your other passions in life are still worthy of your time and attention. In fact, the more I pursue my passions, the better of a mother I become.
I no longer parent out of lack, but rather out of fullness. For me, fullness means exploring my other identities outside of being a mother, namely being a writer and an educator. A lot started changing for me when I gave myself the space to reclaim these identities. Going back to your other loves, ones you had forgotten about in motherhood, is like coming home after a long and tiring trip. Take the time to reflect on the things that make you feel whole and make the time to do just that.
Go to Therapy
I know this is the one I will get the most pushback on, especially from my Latinx community and possibly other communities of color. Being Latinx, a first-generation college graduate, and a daughter of immigrants means I grew up boasting in my resiliency, but never reflected on why the things I lived through made me have to be.
There is so much I have processed in therapy, from my own childhood and the way it affects my parenting, to my parents’ marriage and how I’ve learned gender roles and see them now in my own marriage. While there was some initial hesitancy in sharing my experience, I’m proud to say there is none anymore. I will gladly start any conversation with “My therapist helped me realize…” or “In therapy, I’m learning…” I believe, in my core, that every single person could and would benefit from therapy.
I saw a tweet the other day that read, “You don’t have to wait until something is ‘wrong’ to go to therapy.” If I could write that down on a post-it, store it into the heart of every mama, I would. It would be the truest and most tender love letter I could give you this and every Valentine’s Day.
Laugh and play, mama, and not just when your three-year-old asks it of you. Get in touch with the little girl inside and remember to love on her too. She too is worthy of joy and all things good.
I am finally feeling like I am becoming the woman I was always supposed to be. So… Is this all I am now? No, not in the slightest. Is motherhood supposed to be this hard? It is always hard, but not always overwhelming. Was I meant to even be a mom? Yes, but I was never meant to be just a mom. And neither are you.